News Friday, OCTOBER 15th, 1999

You are tuned to Radio Prague. Those were the headlines, now let's take a look at the news in full:

ODS / 4 Coalition

Vaclav Klaus, chairman of the Civic Democratic Party, (ODS) is set to hold talks on Friday with the leaders of four small right wing parties. These parties, who call themselves the "Coalition of four" called for the meeting after Klaus' talks earlier in the week, with the ruling Social Democrats failed to produce a result.

This comes as the Civic Democratic Party threatened last week to withdraw its support for the minority Social Democrat cabinet it has propped up under the opposition agreement signed last year after inconclusive elections. Klaus' party has not revealed its full demands, but has said the center-left cabinet is incompetent and at least a major reshuffle is necessary.

Jan Kasal, head of the centre right Christian Democrat opposition party told journalists on Thursday that he wants to know what is happening within the Civic Democratic Party and said he sees Friday's meeting as "an exchange of information".

In an independent survey carried out earlier in the week, over 40% of Czechs said they would be in favour of seeing an end to the opposition agreement. The same percentage of people approached, told researchers that they feel the time has come to hold another general election.

Havel / Cibrian

Czech President Vaclav Havel met with European Union ambassador, Romiro Cibrian on Thursday in Prague. Mr Havel warned that some Czechs may not be aware of how serious Wednesday's critical European Union annual report may be for the country's hopes of joining the organisation. He called on political leaders to improve their work on membership.

Romiro Cibrian echoed his words, urging Prague to speed up her efforts to join the 15 nation bloc. He said European expansion has entered the final phases and spoke of the need to accelerate the Czech process of integration into the Union.

President Vaclav Havel added that commitment to the process in the Czech Republic would determine whether the country will be a full participant in European integration, or whether it will remain closed in what he called "its sleepy provincialism".

The report blamed governments led by current Czech Premier Milos Zeman and his predecessor Vaclav Klaus for political paralysis and the slow adoption of European Union standards.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on Thursday that the European Union is not awaiting radical changes on the Czech political scene. He pointed out that the minority government's frail position and the negative impact of the controversial opposition agreement are the underlying reasons for the harsh progress report.

Officials from the European Commission, which is launching an ambitious drive to redraw the European Union's frontiers said they expected to conclude negotiations with all 12 candidate countries by the end of 2002. They also expressed hopes that the first new members could join the Union before 2005.

EU / Maticni

The European Union slammed the Czech Republic on Thursday over the construction of a wall in the northern town of Usti nad Labem, designed to keep Romanies away from nearby residences.

In Brussels, the European Union official managing negotiations on bringing the Czech Republic into the Union said to the Czech ambassador that the wall was "a violation of human rights" that his country is supposed to respect. European Union Commissioner for Enlargement Gunter Verheugen said the Union was demanding immediate action from the Czech government to solve the problem. He said it was extremely worrying that the wall was completed on Wednesday, ironically, the same day that the European Union set out its new strategy on the enlargement process ten years after the collapse of the Berlin wall.

In the meantime, the Human rights organisation HOST, has brought charges against the two main members of the Usti nad Labem town council. A spokesman for the movement said the two town councillors, both members of the Civic Democratic Party, were guilty of abuse of official powers and restricting freedom of movement.

Although the Czech Parliament voted against the wall on Wednesday, legal experts agreed on Thursday that the decision will not have any effect on the future of the notorious project. While Usti nad Labem town councillors said they would consider the matter over the next two weeks, the Czech government pledged to discuss the affair this coming Monday in an effort to find a solution.

Zeman / Lansky

In the light of the European Union's scathing report, Czech Premier Milos Zeman said on Thursday that next week he would meet with his Deputy Premier Egon Lansky in order to discuss his minister's resignation. Although he did not say whether or not Lansky would leave office, Zeman reminded reporters that he has stated in the past that should the Czech Republic come under heavy fire from the union, Lansky who is in charge of preparations for EU membership would be asked to step down.

Egon Lansky, who has also been the object of much negative attention in the press lately for an alleged banking scandal, is currently in hospital. He has come under much criticism over the last two days, with several MP's telling journalists they think the deputy Premier should have left office long ago.

And we end as usual with a brief look at the weather:

We are expecting a cloudy cool start to the day on Friday, with some fog in the early hours of the morning. Temperatures during the day will reach 12 degrees Celsius and will see some snow falling in the mountains. It will be much colder overnight, with temperatures dropping to as low as minus one degrees Celsius.

I'm Dita Asiedu and that's the end of the news.